PRESQUE ISLE — Beginning this fall, students attending the Maine School of Science and Mathematics will be able to take advantage of the most comprehensive early-college pathway in Maine, potentially completing enough college-level coursework to earn an Associate Degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in addition to a high school diploma. At $15 per credit hour, the 64-credit associate degree could cost students and their families less than $1,000, a 93 percent savings over the traditional cost of a similar course load for Maine residents attending UMPI.
UMPI President Linda Schott and MSSM Executive Director Luke Shorty held a signing ceremony on Friday, Feb. 27, in UMPI’s Alumni Room, finalizing an articulation agreement that establishes Maine’s fastest and most affordable path to a college diploma. The dual-degree agreement will provide MSSM students with approximately 50 course equivalencies worth more than 150 college credits, providing some of Maine’s most promising students a first-of-its-kind head start at earning an affordable bachelor’s degree.
While there are many early college credit programs available in Maine including those advanced by the LePage Administration like the innovative Bridge Year Program, the impact and affordability of this new agreement has captured the attention of state education officials.
“With the rising cost of college and the huge student debt burden our young people are facing, it is such great news that more Maine students will now have the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school, not only saving them money but giving them a great advantage over their peers,” said Tom Desjardin, Acting Commissioner for the Maine Department of Education.
“The Dual Degree program between the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics is an outstanding example of the kind of innovative thinking we must have to increase student opportunity,” said University of Maine System Chancellor James Page. “This creative partnership will result in more STEM graduates for the state with less loan indebtedness for some of our most promising students.”
This new articulation agreement was the result of a rigorous review of MSSM’s academic portfolio, including faculty qualifications, course syllabi and texts. More than 40 MSSM courses were deemed to be equivalent in content, rigor, and instructional credentials to UMPI courses and faculty qualifications, paving the way for the awarding of college credit. MSSM’s students who successfully complete Multivariable Calculus, for example, will receive college credit for its course equivalency at UMPI, Math 231.
Students who want to take advantage of the associate degree opportunity will receive a degree plan that specifies the courses they need to take at each institution, with equivalent courses noted, to earn an Associate of Arts degree at UMPI and a diploma at MSSM.
Officials noted that this agreement comes at an important time with the current national focus on higher education reform. According to Complete College America, only 19 percent of students across the U.S. complete a four-year university degree within four years, and only 4 percent complete a two-year degree within two years. In Maine, 64 percent of college students owe money coming out of college with an average indebtedness of nearly $30,000. That indebtedness can double if students don’t complete a degree in four years.